Ronaldo is applying for the starting XI, his coach doesn’t make a face
The World Cup in Qatar seemed to have been the crossroads for Cristiano Ronaldo. He was no longer seeded in Portugal’s national team. But resignation was never an issue for him, the old star now says. Especially since a worthwhile goal is still opening up for him.
So Cristiano Ronaldo has rarely appeared calm in recent months. Portugal’s football superstar entered the press room in Lisbon without haste, and the 38-year-old patiently and relaxedly answered the questions of the journalists present. He quickly made his message clear: he was happy to be back with the national team. And he never really thought about resigning.
“I feel like I’m here for the first time. I love playing for the Seleção. This is my home and I feel very comfortable here,” he said. “I’ll always come to the Seleção if I think they’re going to be counting on me.” The new national coach Roberto Martínez gave him that feeling.
Ever Martinez. Before the European Championship qualifier against Liechtenstein this Thursday (8.45 p.m., in the WELT sports ticker), the old star praised the Spaniard in the highest tones. “I feel a different energy, a new aura, a new chapter. I believe this change will be good for us and for Portugal,” Ronaldo said. “I feel something special and very positive.” He is sure that Portugal will be a team with “more offensive”. Apparently, the attacker wanted to apply for a place in the starting eleven.
Because if Ronaldo is used against the outsider, it would be his 197th international match and a world record. “Records are always positive things, they are my motivation,” he said, “that would be an extraordinary record, the player with the most caps in history, that’s something special. We’ll see if the coach picks me up. I’m ready.”
Cristiano Ronaldo no longer sole captain
Martínez followed his striker’s words from the front row. The 49-year-old watched the performance of the captain without batting an eyelid – but from now on he will no longer be the sole captain. “Right now, the players with the most experience will be the captains of the Seleção. Cristiano Ronaldo, Rui Patrício and Bernardo Silva will be the captains,” said Martínez.
But even if he is no longer the sole leader, Ronaldo seemed highly motivated. He doesn’t see his move to Saudi club Al Nassr as a major step backwards. “It is clear that this is not the Premier League,” he said of the Saudi league. But they have “good teams, it’s balanced, the Arab players are good, the foreign players bring quality. If they continue with this plan, maybe in five or six years they will be the fourth or fifth strongest league in the world.”
After difficult months at Manchester United and a World Cup in Qatar that was disappointing for him personally, there were doubts about Ronaldo’s future in the national team. His involvement with Al Nassr also gave the impression that he had retired, but Martínez nominated him for the European Championship qualifiers against Liechtenstein and three days later in Luxembourg.
“It’s true, that was a less good phase in my career,” Ronaldo said of his departure from Manchester and the disappointing World Cup. But he was “grateful for having experienced some difficulties. Not just as a player, but also as a person. I’m a better person now.”